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Anna Chaplaincy celebrated at cathedral
WE celebrated the ministry of Anna Chaplaincy across our diocese with an inaugural network event and Candlemas service in our cathedral.
Those involved with this crucial ministry of spiritual development with older people gathered for an afternoon in our cathedral nave, followed by a Candlemas service at which they dedicated themselves to serve in this way.
Anna Chaplains are named after the widow Anna who saw the infant Jesus and recognised him as the Messiah, alongside Simeon in the Temple. This ministry has been developed by the Christian charity BRF and involves licensed Anna Chaplains visiting the elderly in their homes and in care homes to offer spiritual care.
Bishop Jonathan has made Anna Chaplaincy one of his main priorities, and wants to create a network of Anna Chaplains across our diocese. In the past year, dozens of Anna Chaplains have been trained and licensed, alongside others who work in support as as Anna Friends.
Coleen Jackson and the Rev Samantha Martell, who jointly chair our diocese's Anna Chaplaincy steering group, gathered all those involved - and those who might be interested in future - at our cathedral for an afternoon of training, sharing stories and networking. Former Meridian TV presenter Debbie Thrower, who was appointed as the very first Anna Chaplain 13 years ago in Alton, was among those speaking.
Our Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends then re-dedicated themselves to their roles during the cathedral's Candlemas service, which recalls the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Debbie Thrower preached, unpacking the Biblical story and explaining how today's Anna Chaplains have both a pastoral and prophetic role in a society where those aged over 60 now outnumber those aged under 18 for the first time.
She said: "Anna Chaplains are inspired by the example of Anna and Simeon to do this work. Some are paid, the majority are volunteers, and they are men and women, lay and ordained. We now have 272 licensed Anna Chaplains across the UK and hundreds of Anna Friends. They offer spiritual care to those in later life, irrespective of whether they go to church. This story shows that God uses those who the world deems as 'past it' to do his work. They can recognise the new direction that society has to take."
Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends gathered around the altar at the end of the service with lighted candles to symbolise their commitment. They also processed to the cathedral's font, with Bishop Jonathan, to recall their own baptismal vows. The candles were extinguished in the nave, to symbolise the fact that the light of Christ now goes with us into the world.
The afternoon event involved delegates gathering around tables in the cathedral nave, so they could compare notes with colleagues. They heard from Katherine Barbour and Penny Thatcher, from the Southampton area Anna Chaplaincy team, about how to create dementia-inclusive churches.
And Debbie Thrower reminded them that our diocese's journey to this stage has happened in just over a year. She advised those attending that they could minister best if they kept close to the spiritual disciplines that sustain their faith - they should keep themselves in spiritual shape so they have spiritual resources to draw on.
Debbie Newbound, from St Andrew's, Hayling Island, was among those attending. She said: "I work as a carer for the elderly, so I can see the need in Hayling. It's great to meet with other Anna Chaplains and see what they are doing."
The first Anna Chaplain in our diocese, Anne Powell, was licensed on the Isle of Wight in 2021, and the second, Coleen Jackson, was licensed in April 2022 on the mainland. The plan is to have an Anna Chaplain in every parish, benefice and cluster in our diocese.
If you're interested in getting involved in this ministry, you can find out more and apply for yourself on portsmouth.anglican.org/anna.